Singapore's junior hockey players could find themselves competing in an Australian domestic competition from next year. This, after the Singapore Hockey Federation (SHF) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Hockey Australia (HA) yesterday.
The arrangement will see the Singapore men's and women's junior teams playing in HA's national championships from 2016 to 2018, as well as coaching and umpiring exchange programmes between the two parties.
"We are very grateful... and sure that we will benefit greatly from a country with such a strong pedigree in the game," said SHF president Mathavan Devadas of the arrangement with Australia, whose women are three-time Olympic champions while the men won the 2004 gold.
"We are looking at developing our age groups, with focus on the Under-18, U-16 and U-14 players."
He added that the SHF is also looking to grow the base of players, with U-8 and U-10 kids also set to benefit.
In recent years, the SHF has sent several players for overseas training stints that lasted a few months. Zulfadli Jasni Ismail and Tan Yiru went to Racing Club de France in Paris, Nur Ashriq played for Gantoise Hockey Club in Belgium while Haseef Salim turned out for Fremantle Hockey Club in Western Australia.
But this is the first time the SHF is aiming to field a team in another country's domestic competition.
Under-18 captain Ahmad Faris welcomed the move, saying: "Playing in a high-level league in Australia will give us much experience and knowledge in attacking and tactical play."
But the Year 1 student at Temasek Polytechnic expressed doubt about the players' ability to participate regularly in the Australian league in the midst of their academic semesters, saying: "Many of us in the U-18 team will be in the midst of our school semesters so it will be hard to put our academic commitments aside."
Devadas also admitted that the SHF faces a challenge: "It is the first time Singapore hockey is competing in a national competition overseas. And we have a different academic calendar compared to other countries, so our participation would be dependent on the schedule and budget we have, and (we also need) to consider the venue and period of the competition.
"But the hockey league in Australia lies between March and September, and June would be a good period for the players to compete during their school break."
Cameron Vale, chief executive of HA, believes the arrangement will benefit the sport in both countries and allow HA to leverage its programmes and knowledge to strengthen links in the region.